Confidence. Everyone wants it, few seem to have it. Genuine confidence, that is. Not bravado, arrogance, or whatever you would call that thing people do when they are desperately trying to make others like them.
I call it ‘Authentic Confidence’. We see it manifest in certain celebrities, athletes, artists, and creators. We may not be able to pinpoint exactly what makes it up, but we recognize it when we see it on the screen, at a party, even entering a meeting.
The good news is: everyone has it. The bad news? Most people don’t know how to access it, strengthen it, or trust it.
I recently had the pleasure to work with a group of adidas managers from all over the world as part of their intensive four-day training in New York City. In one way, together we were uncovering and bolstering each individual’s Authentic Confidence. The goal was to both give them tools to access it and to help them through tasks that tested their decision making, leadership skills, and comfort levels for swimming in the unknown. All important talents, all things us professional improvisers practice constantly.
So, how did the adidas managers uncover their Authentic Confidence – and how can you unlock it, too?
It’s also what improves collaboration, lets ideas flow, and develops creativity.
To start incorporating the “Yes, and…” philosophy, you’ll want to break it down in two parts:
1. Saying YES.
Pay attention to how you are listening to people. Have you already decided you don’t agree without considering what they are fully saying? Are you hearing the words but it’s coming through a filter of “Here’s why that’ll never work”, “I don’t like that” or “We’ve already tried that”?
2. Saying AND.
Be wary of the evil step-siblings: “Yes, but” is just a polite “No.” “Yes. Anyway…” is really a way of saying “yes” but not having to incorporate anything that was said. “Yes, that sounds great. Anyway, back to what I was saying…”
The real deal in saying and meaning “Yes, and…” is to take what the other person says and carry it forward. Look for what you liked about what they said, what you could relate to, or what had value. It takes practice, but once you implement “Yes, and…” into your vocabulary, you will see how radically different your conversations, interactions, and creative brainstorms become.
So how does this look in practice? How will these two simple words build your confidence?
1. You will learn to roll with it
As the saying goes: “They can’t pop your balloon with something if your balloon absorbs it.” (OK, no one has ever said it, but the visual works for me.)
If we are so dependent on our own scripts, on the way we think a conversation will go, we will see anything that takes us off script as a threat, or even wrong. However, if you have the confidence that going off-script will be fine, there’s nothing to fear.
Confidence comes from knowing you will be able to handle yourself in just about any situation, even when something unexpected arises. “Yes, and…” keeps you present, listening, connected to everyone else, and it allows you to use what’s coming up instead of fighting or ignoring it.
2. You begin to “Yes, and…” your own ideas, impulses, concerns
Sometimes, applying “Yes, and…” to your own thoughts is the bigger challenge. We get glimmers of things we want to say during a conversation or challenging situation, but we hold back. We doubt ourselves and our ideas.
Confident people offer their ideas without judgement or hesitation. They do not overly attach their worth to any one idea. If no one likes it, it’s water off a duck’s back. No biggie, time to move on. They have lowered the bar for themselves in a healthy way.
Practice saying “Yes, and…” to your own thoughts – you’ll immediately see you’ve been squelching inspiration and innovation within yourself. See what happens when you start sharing without the pressure to be perfect every time you open your mouth (aka lower the bar). You will begin to trust yourself more and more, which only makes it easier to think of new, creative ideas.
3. You will see how much you accomplish in the moment
Fearing mistakes or imperfection is the number one reason why you feel like you can’t engage in the moment. Practicing “Yes, and…” will help you stay connected to your ideas. It creates a thread to follow as you speak. If we are constantly judging what we say, editing, and doubting ourselves, of course we are going to freeze up and stop. “Yes, and…” creates baby steps from where you start to where you wind up going.
When you start using this simple phrase and philosophy, you will be investing in yourself and your abilities to handle curves and challenges, improvising at every turn and allowing everyone to see how much you have to offer. So go forth and “Yes, and…”!